Artwork Installed Along the TBRT!

Students from Rutherford County Schools (RCS) & their families joined Watts Water employees, RCS staff, and other community leaders to celebrate the installation of a 1000-foot banner featuring student artwork along a busy section of the Thermal Belt Rail Trail (TBRT). 

The ribbon was cut by Ritchie Garland, Director of Marketing & Community Relations for Rutherford County Schools during a ceremony held on Friday, May 20th. The installation of the banner was timed to coincide with the end of the school year, so students could view their artwork along the TBRT before school let out for summer vacation.

Ritchie Garland from Rutherford County Schools joins a representative from Watts Water to cut the ribbon for the new public art installation.

“There is no doubt that as people walk up and down this trail that they are going to feel joy and happiness because of the hard work of the students and teachers involved.”

- Ritchie Garland, Rutherford County Schools

Garland went on to thank the teachers involved in the project, noting that when he emailed them requesting student involvement on this project, they immediately began working with their students to produce the artwork for this incredible public art installation. Students who contributed artwork gathered during the ribbon cutting to be recognized for their creativity and hard work.

“I was really surprised at how good it is. I’ll probably be an art teacher someday”

- Samuel Girdler, 3rd Grader in Gabe Turner’s class at Ellenboro Elementary School. 

“Our assignment was realism. I chose a heart because I felt like I could put the most detail and effort into it. I wanted to challenge myself.”

- Riley Mensch, East Rutherford High School

“It makes me feel good, kind of special. I’ve never been camping before, so I thought it would be cool to draw camping”  

Natalynn Phouvanay, 5th Grade, Ellenboro Elementary School

Located along a heavily-trafficked section of the TBRT, the Watts Water facility installed the artwork and upgraded landscaping in an effort to beautify and improve their area bordering the trail. Additionally, Watts Water employees came up with the idea to partner with the local school system for the artwork that now hangs from the fence separating the facility from the trail.

“This project is an example of a true collaborative effort. Combining the talents of the students with the support from Watts, the Thermal Belt Rail Trail Partners, and the Rutherford County TDA has resulted in a great enhancement to the trail.” said Ron Hancock, Senior Planner at Destination by Design, an economic development and planning firm that helped facilitate the project.

In 2021, the Thermal Belt Rail Trail Partners, an alliance of local leaders responsible for the management of the trail, adopted the Thermal Belt Rail Trail Enhancement Master Plan, identifying several areas slated for improvement, including: trail access & safety, signage, public art, and landscaping. The stretch of trail alongside the Watts Water facility is one of the areas that was suggested for improvement; spurring Watts Water leadership to team up as a corporate sponsor of Rutherford Bound to complete this project. 

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